On the road again? Campervan travel and Covid-19

With increasing levels of local lockdown and the October storms already begun, many of us have now subconsciously started the process of hunkering down for the winter. In our household however the darker months have traditionally been a time for future travel plans and short weekend forays to lonely windswept camp sites.

‘Goin’ places that I’ve never been’

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has turned travel into a desperate race for business survival. Overseas travel and airlines are currently the clear losers with domestic exploration not so much winning but perhaps approaching the starting line. The implications of this are obvious, well-discussed and serious but we Brits haven’t lost our love of travel yet. From crammed campsites to new vocabulary, evidence suggests we are a nation of travellers, and it is the activity rather than the destination that motivates us. In other words, no matter how much we learn to enjoy our local environments, we’re unlikely to lose our inbuilt urge to explore new places.

‘Seein’ things that I may never see again’

This leaves all of us with a conundrum. Should we travel? Can we travel safely? Is it really going to be sunny forever? Once glance out of the window answers my final question but I find my response to the other two complex.

As a freelance writer, campervan road trips have become an important part of my existence. They help me expand my experience, research outdoor and travel topics and boost my creativity. I don’t travel all the time, and lockdown number one proved I can enjoy a local life but the free-flowing life of campervan travel definitely adds to my ability to do my job well.

The onset of the Covid-19 has made us all rethink the way we live our lives, and travel is no exception to this. Mr. D and I definitely had a few doubts before we set off on our latest campervan adventure. We’ve returned more thoughtful about the implications of our choice of holiday on local environments and people. That said (and Mr. Willy Nelson put it so well)…

‘I can’t wait to get on the road again’

I could launch at this point into tales of roadside mishaps, missed hotel rooms, and torchlit backsides but those are all stories for another day. With its all-encompassing, unwelcome embrace, coronavirus was always going to have an impact on campervan travel in the UK. Here are some of the differences we noticed, and how we attempted to achieve a positive rather than a negative impact as we journeyed.

We considered staying at home

Let’s not beat about, or indeed squat behind, the bush here. Traveling anywhere in an old Toyota Hiace van is not an environmentally friendly option. Unless perhaps you compare it to getting on a plane. Like so many people we had enjoyed the reduction in traffic noise and fumes we experienced during lockdown. Did we really want to add to those in another area?

There was also the risk of infection spread. We spent some time considering how we were going to mitigate this one. With a campervan, it’s possible to take a zero-engagement approach but this went against our usual principle of giving something back to local communities. It also did a very poor job of recognising the ‘eat out to help out’ principle.

In the end, we did stop for at least some of our usual coffee and cake sessions, and we did shop in local stores. We were however unrelenting with our hand-washing (another campervan advantage), mask-wearing and space-allowing approach both before, during, and after forays outside the van.

We took a flexible approach to accommodation and booked ahead where possible

Anyone who tried to hire a campervan for the summer of 2020 will tell you how busy the season has been. The obvious appeal of self-contained travel has seen many more vans and motorhomes on the roads. This combined with the lower capacity of campsites has caused problems in some areas. As we live in one of those areas, we definitely didn’t want to add to issues elsewhere.

Although we don’t usually make definite accommodation plans on van trips, for 2020 we did book some nights ahead. We were also very open-minded about options (and didn’t always get things right). This led to an eclectic mix of sleeping experiences including,

  • Running out of fuel and reluctantly swapping a hotel night for an uncomfortable and guilt-ridden roadside one
  • Experiencing a beautiful lonely reservoir night
  • Luxuriating for four nights at a posh apartment
  • Experimenting with one permitted car park night as part of Forestry Scotland’s Stay the Night trial at Galloway Forest Park
  • Appreciating one permitted, paid car park night at Kielder Water
  • Enjoying a wonderful farm camping experience complete with sausage-stealing chickens

All of this has left us with some fantastic fireside stories and an increased appreciation of those who look after our beautiful outdoor spaces and accommodations.

I can’t see another long campervan trip being on the cards for a while now but I was encouraged by this one, and am looking forward to at least a couple of well-planned, short winter forays into the nearly-unknown. It turns out I don’t need to remove ‘freelance travel writer‘ from my portfolio just yet.

Fi Darby is a Devon-based author, blogger and copywriter. Writing, even about topics you love, doesn’t always come easily. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.

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